Damascus, March 12th , 2002.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ;
This circular will be somewhat late in reaching you. Please excuse me.
As I do each year, I will relate to you the principal events of the year 2001.
Allow me to remind you however that the most important element of Soufanieh has always been PRAYER. Prayer accompanied the events at Soufanieh from its very first moments and freely continued its identification with Soufanieh throughout the following days and years.
Among the other apparent fruits of this prayer, may I point out:
1) The celebration of the Divine Liturgy every Saturday evening. There is a visible increase of faithful in attendance and a growth as well, in the participation of young priests.
2) The start, in October 2001, of an hour of adoration, spontaneously requested by a group of young people, which takes place every Tuesday evening at 1900hrs. This prayer brings together an impressive number of souls, who are happy to be responsible for its conception and preparation around a theme chosen with Myrna’s help: silence .. prayer ..unity ..purity ..repentance .. love .. forgiveness .. recollection .. abandonment to the Will of God .. joy in the Lord .. Mary’s humility .. sin .. Redemption .. etc. Silence, hymns and prayers, written or improvised, underscore this heartfelt prayer-meeting, which never ends before 2215hrs.
Friends from France, Egypt, Canada and Germany who took part, made a decision to organize similar prayer-groups timed to occur at the same time of day, in their own country.
Do you remember the "Network of Friendship and Prayer woven across the world by Our Lady of Soufanieh" which I talked about in previous circulars ?
Let us now mention the five principal events of the previous year:
1 – Holy Week – 2001.
2 - The Holy Father’s visit to Syria.
3 – The celebrations of the 19th anniversary of the appearances of Our Lady at Soufanieh, Damascus.
4 - Myrna’s voyages to pray and to bear witness.
5 – Soufanieh in Canada, and from Canada.
-1- Holy Week 2001.
1) Given that Easter that year was celebrated at the same time by both Catholics and Orthodox, we had high expectations, hoping in all sincerity for something special.
2) At the same time, I admit that we were afraid that nothing would happen, because the decision to celebrate Easter on the same day was decided by the calendar rather than by any ecumenical or ecclesiastical decision.
3) Despite this fact, many, many friends came to Damascus, including several doctors and priests, from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, France, Tahiti, Reunion Island, the United States and Canada, as well as a delegation from Danish Television, who had been recommended to us many months previously by his Excellency Monsignor Czesla W Kozon, Catholic Bishop of Copenhagen and by Fr. René Laurentin.
4) On Thursday in Holy Week (April 12th) at 1345hrs, Myrna was unexpectedly overtaken by a shuddering that convulsed her terribly, and this was followed by the opening of the stigmata first on her forehead, and then on her hands, feet and flank. Blood flowed from all her wounds except for the feet. All this took place in full view of everyone present. It goes without saying that everything was recorded (photo & video). The atmosphere was imbued with a spirit of prayer and recollection. Among the ecclesiastics present I wish to mention: Monsignor George Riachi, Greek-Catholic Bishop of Tripoli (Lebanon) Frs. Jean-Paul Devedeux (French), Boulos Fadel, Antoine Mousleh and myself (Fr. Elias Zahlaoui).
5) During the night from Good Friday to Easter Saturday, Fr. Fadi Tabet arrived at 0130 hrs in the morning. He is the director of the "Voice of Charity", a Christian radio broadcasting out of Lebanon and he was the first, with Nicolas and then Myrna, to have the joy of noticing that there was oil in the little, glass cup that had been placed under the miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh, which had not exuded oil since the evening of the 26th of November 1990 !
6) On Easter Saturday (April 14th), Myrna went into an ecstasy at 1415 hrs., which was preceded by an unexpected oozing of oil from her face and eyes. The ecstasy lasted for 25 minutes. Coming out of the ecstasy, Myrna affirmed that she had seen the Blessed Virgin and Fr. Joseph Malouli who (you may remember) died on March 5th, 2000. Both of them led her by the hand to Jesus, who, surrounded by a dazzling light, dictated this message to her:
I have given you a sign to glorify Me.
Continue along this path and I am with you, for if you do not, I will close the gates of Heaven against you.
And yet, here is a Mother who suffers, and prays, and says to Me, 'But Lord, You are all Love.'
And I respond, 'Do not despair, O Gateway to Heaven, for I love them and I want them to return this love by giving of themselves.'
My children, work diligently on examining yourselves truthfully, and on measuring the extent of your sincerity in accomplishing the unity of hearts amongst you. Arm yourselves with patience and wisdom, and do not fear if you fail. Persevere in hope.
Trust in Me, for I will not abandon those who carry out My will.
As for you, My daughter, be watchful and arm yourself with My grace.
Be patient, wise and humble.
Offer these sufferings with joy, as I have already told you, 'Your hardships shall not be prolonged.'
Look to Me and you will find peace and rest. For it is I who strengthens you. For it is I who throws you into the fray, and then pulls you out of it, leading you to the joys of Heaven.
Apply yourself to prayer, and let your fasting be accompanied by meditation and contemplation. Then you will hear My voice deep inside you.
Place your trust in Me, for I will not abandon you, nor your family, nor anyone who has worked with you to honour Me and for My sake only."
7) We have witnesses to all these events, two of which are written by doctors – Mrs Brigitte Sauvegrain, psychologist, from France and the family practitioner Dr. Khaled Yazigi from Syria, as well as that of Fr. Jean-Paul Devedeux from France. But the most detailed and complete report is that of Fr. Boulos Fadel.
8) It is also worth mentioning that all the video or tv cameras – especially those of the Danish Television team - were rolling all week long, but without in any way disturbing the densely-packed atmosphere of prayer and recollection. And already the videocassettes are making their way across the world. We are still waiting for the film promised us by Danish Television.
-2- The Holy Father’s visit to Syria (May 5th – 8th , 2001).
1) This visit was altogether extraordinary, whichever way you look at it. I will point out what I consider to be related to Soufanieh.
2) To dissipate any misunderstandings or malicious gossip, I wish to confirm that not only did Myrna not meet the Holy Father, but that she didn’t make the slightest effort to meet him either.
3) Despite the extraordinary atmosphere that surrounded this visit in general, what was said at the Holy Father’s meeting with young people at the Greek-Catholic Cathedral, both with regard to the Unity of the Chuch and concerning the Unification of the Feast of Easter, was all profoundly connected to Soufanieh.
4) What happened subsequently, in relation to the Unification of the Feast of Easter, although regrettable, can only serve to intensify our prayers for the Unification not only of the Feast, but even more so of the Church, which is the heart of the message of Soufanieh.
-3- Celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady, in Damascus.
It has now become a custom for us to mention the celebrations of this anniversary both in Damascus and Montreal. If any friends notify us in future of their celebrations, we will be only too happy to mention them as well in our next bulletin.
1) As with previous anniversaries, numerous friends came from more or less everywhere, among them priests and doctors who had come for the celebrations of Holy Week 2001 .. from France, Tahiti, Reunion Island, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Syria.
2) His Excellency Monsignor Isidore Battikha presided over the Divine Liturgy, celebrated in the church of Our Lady of Damascus, on Sunday, November 24th . A large crowd was present, at the head of which could be seen the Syrian-Catholic Bishop, Monsignor George Hafoury.
3) On the evening of Tuesday, November 26th , prayers began at 1440 hrs. in the "House of the Virgin". At 1900 hrs., oil suddenly covered Myrna’s face and flowed from her eyes. Led to her bed, she soon went into ecstasy. It lasted 25 minutes. Coming out of this ecstasy, Myrna affirmed that she had seen the Lord Jesus, who had dictated the following message to her:
How beautiful is the family whose emblem is unity, love and faith.
Its path is My path and My Mother is its support.
I am bestowing Myself upon you.
The act of adoration, meditation, thanksgiving and spiritual guidance rejoice Me.
But the whole is incomplete without your unity at the altar.
I am giving you My Body and My Blood as a proof of My fidelity and love.
Receive from Me this sacrament with trust and faith,
because this sacrament comforts you,
provides you with strength and wisdom and increases you in grace.
Difficult days are coming.
Turmoil within the Church.
He, who does not enjoy true peace, will be in danger due to division.
Do not surrender to failure,
do not worry about the judgement of others on you,
do not defend yourselves
and seek only what I have prepared for you.
I am the One who take care of you because you are the work of My hands.
Prove your love to Me,
because through love I walk at your side and through the sacraments I unite Myself to you.
And do not forget that I am the reason of your existence on earth
and I am the reason of your happiness in Heaven
4) Only the priests who were present signed the text of this message, after I had specifically asked them to do so. Here are their names: Frs. Joseph Besnier, Jean-Paul Devedeux, both French, Fadi Tabet and Georges Battikha, both Lebanese, Elias Salloum and Boulos Fadel, Syrians. The latter carefully noted down everything that took place, in an exhaustive and detailed report. I myself was absent at the time of the ecstasy.
-4- Myrna’s voyages to pray and to bear witness.
This year (2001) Myrna made no journey at all outside the Arab world. A voyage to the United States of America, sponsored by the former Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus, Monsignor Luigi Accogli, expected for the start of October, was cancelled.
Invited several times to go to Lebanon, Myrna replied to all these invitations only after she had obtained the explicit approval of the local Bishop. It is worth pointing out that oil oozed almost always from Myrna’s hands, either after the prayer had ended or at the end of her testimony. The priests of the local parish or surrounding parishes were always present as well as Fr. Boulos Fadel or Fr. George Battikha. I also accompanied her several times. I mention only two of the visits, one was the prayer-meeting in the church of St Elias in Damour, at the invitation of Fr. Mansour Labaki, on July 20th , 2001, and the other, the prayer-meeting in the church of Rmeiche, a Maronite village on the southern Lebanese frontier, at the invitation of Fr. Najib Amil.
-5- Soufanieh in Canada, and from Canada.
Wonderful news reached us from Canada thanks to the letter of Mr. Gabriel Berberian, dated January 18th, 2002. Suffice it to quote its main points:
March 5th , 2001.
A prayer evening was organised to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Fr. Joseph Malouli. It took place in the Coptic Orthodox church of Sts. George and Joseph. It was led by Frs.Arsanios Serry and Joseph Sedra.
This year, Easter was on the same date (Catholic and Orthodox). In Damascus Mr. Gabriel Berberian who had come from Canada, filmed all the events of this anniversary as he had done many times previously. As usual, he placed everything on the Internet and into electronic archives. A two hour-long film, in Arabic, commemorates this extraordinary event.
"Radio Ville-Marie", in Montreal, aired a half-hour discussion on Holy Week in Soufanieh. This fell within the scope of the "Carrefour des Ainés - Crossroads for the Elders" broadcast. The discussion was led by Mr. Melhem Mobarak and organized by Mrs. Magda M. Tremblay.
A 61 minute long compact disc (CD) was prepared in Damascus, by Gabriel Berberian and consists of hymns and music, interspersed with the messages of Soufanieh, read by Myrna and Fr. Elias Zahlaoui.
Filing and digitization, there and then, of all the video-cassettes of the years 1982 – 1990, as well as the thousands of photos depicting that period.
Celebrations of the 19th anniversary.
In Montreal: their Excellencies Monsignor Sleiman Hajjar, catholic, Greek-Melkite Bishop and Monsignor Ephram Abboudy, Syrian Orthodox bishop, celebrated this (19th) anniversary with the participation of seven priests (Latin and Melkite) as well as a Syrian Catholic deacon. This was followed by a small festive celebration during which a very condensed 15 minute video-montage was presented, of the events of Holy Week at Soufanieh. The film is in the Arabic language. Almost 800 people were present. The entire anniversary was filmed by Egyptian TV with a view to subsequent distribution.
In the United States, Fr. George Gage of the Romanian-Catholic church, organised an evening of prayers, followed by a video presentation of the events of Holy Week 2001 at Soufanieh.
Almost 40,000 accesses to this day. New Bulgarian version added to the site.
1 – Poland.
Exchange of video clips with a Polish group, for a short 30 minute video. Showing: December 2001.
( Projection carried out ).
2 – Denmark.
Exchange of video clips with a Danish team for their 60 minute video on Soufanieh. Planned for Spring 2002.
3 – Hungary.
Through "Rassemblement à Son Image", two broadcasts were chosen from among 300, for a new TV program: Soufanieh and Czestochowa. Proposed for December 2001. ( Project carried out ).
4 – Romania.
Through "Rassemblement à Son Image", choice of film on Soufanieh, for a new TV programme. Planned for June 2002.
5 – Africa.
Through "Rassemblement à Son Image" a choice of two films on Soufanieh and Kibeho for a new TV programme. Date uncertain.
Ongoing translation of two books into the Bulgarian language: Appel à l’Unité (Call to Unity), edited in Montreal and Soufanieh – the Apparitions in Damascus by Christian Ravaz.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
Let us thank the Lord for his ever-active and ever-loving Presence in Soufanieh and in the world in these more than difficult times.
Together let us beg Him to grant our madly disconcerted world His Understanding, His Spirit and His Love, so that a just and worthy Peace may be established in the world and that His UNITY may come, may be given, to his Church.
Let us always remain firmly united in prayer and in the mission we share.
Father Elias Zahlaoui.
Parish of Our Lady of Damascus
Koussour – Damascus
Tel: 0096311 4450 999
Friend’s fax: 0096311 2245816
549 - 39 AVENUE
LACHINE ,QC CANADA - H8T 2E2